A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 09-10/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 24th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 09-10/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 24th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
November 09-10/2019

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 009-10/2019
Sources: French Envoy to Arrive In Beirut Soon
Lebanese banks urge calm amid financial crisis and protests/Officials said there was no concern about solvency
Lebanon’s president meets bankers amid liquidity crisis
Aoun during the Baabda Meeting: For adopting necessary measures to meet citizens’ needs
Union of Bank Employees Syndicates: Extraordinary meeting upcoming Monday to discuss infringements against staff in many banks’ branches
Report: Consumer Prices Up 8% amid Protests
Fuel Shortage, Price Hikes Squeeze Protest-Hit Lebanon
Lebanese banks face threats, Hariri said to want neutral government
Report: Hizbullah, Speaker ‘Fail’ to Persuade Adamant Hariri
Students in Tyre Join Pupils Demos for First Time
Lebanon’s grand mufti calls for protesters’ demands to be met
World Bank Regional Chief Urges Lebanon to Form Govt. ‘within a Week’
Lebanon Protests a Boon for Street Vendors
Geagea confers with Kubic over latest local developments
Geagea Replies to Pompeo Remarks on Lebanon
Geagea Says Officials Seem to be Living ‘on Another Planet’

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 09-10/2019
Sources: French Envoy to Arrive In Beirut Soon
Paris – Michel Abou Najem/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
Paris avoids interfering in the Lebanese local affairs and refuses to engage in the bazaar of names suggested to head the next cabinet. However, France refuses to remain passive in the face of Lebanon’s current political and economic crisis. “Christophe Farnaud, head of North Africa and Middle East department at the French foreign ministry should arrive to Beirut soon with a mission to support Lebanon at the economic and financial level,” official French sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday. The sources stressed the need to “differentiate” between the French policy and the US policy in Lebanon. “Paris wants to support Beirut in filling the current void,” they said, adding that France hopes that Lebanese officials agree to form a government capable to meet the popular demands and to issue laws that are necessary for implementing economic reforms and the pledges taken at the CEDRE conference held last April in Paris.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned last October 29 in response to popular protests against the political class. The cabinet remains in place in a caretaker capacity amid stalled efforts to form a new one. Paris considers that the resignation of Hariri has pushed the crisis to further aggravation. In short, Paris wants to build a safety net for Lebanon with a focus on quickly filling the governmental void and on implementing the delayed economic reforms and meeting the legitimate demands of the street. Other sources said that the French envoy aims to “comfort Hezbollah” that no plot was planned against its existence in Lebanon. “There are no conspiracies to weaken or get rid of the party,” the source said. The sources said that all parties should coordinate to face the current crisis, which threatens to remove the entire monetary and financial system. “The envoy has a mission to bridge the gap and contradictory positions among Lebanese parties with hopes to exist the current crisis,” the source added.

Lebanese banks urge calm amid financial crisis and protests/Officials said there was no concern about solvency
AP/November 10/2019
Lebanese bankers and government officials tried to calm a worried public on Saturday amid the country’s major financial crisis, telling them that all deposits are guaranteed and “there is no need for panic.”The country’s financial troubles have worsened since nationwide protests – initially against new taxes – snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to step down. Banks reopened November 1 after a two-week closure amid the protests. But depositors have rushed to withdraw their money in recent days, while the country’s various lenders have imposed varying capital controls that differ from bank to bank. The announcement by Salim Sfeir, chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, came after a two-hour meeting between President Michel Aoun, several Cabinet ministers and top banking officials in search of solutions for Lebanon’s deepening financial and economic crisis. “Depositors’ money is being preserved. What is happening is not an issue related to solvency, and therefore there is no need for panic,” Mr Sfeir said. “People should calm down. People should withdraw enough to meet their needs, not everything they have.” Mr Sfeir added that those who attended the meeting have asked the central bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, to continue taking the necessary measures “to preserve the safety of cash and economic stability.” He added that small depositors will be given priority when they come to withdraw money. Mr Aoun’s office said the meeting was attended by the ministers of economy and finance, as well as the central bank governor, the head of the banks’ association and top officials from the country’s largest lenders. Lebanon, one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, was already dealing with a severe fiscal crisis before the protests began, one rooted in years of heavy borrowing and expensive patronage networks run by entrenched political parties. The Lebanese pound is trading at up to 1,900 to the dollar on the black market, a devaluation of nearly to 30 per cent from the official rate.
Banks in Lebanon were closed Saturday for an extra day amid deepening turmoil and public anxiety over liquidity. Monday is a holiday to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and banks are scheduled to resume normal work on Tuesday.The financial crisis has worsened since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on October 29 meeting a key demand by the protesters. No date has been yet set by Mr Aoun for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name a new premier. Protesters are demanding a government made up of technocrats that would immediately get to work on the necessary reforms to address the economy. Politicians are divided among other things over whether the new Cabinet should be made up of experts only or include politicians. The World Bank on Friday urged Lebanon to form a new Cabinet “within a week” to prevent further degradation and loss of confidence in its economy, warning of grave risks to the country’s stability. Lebanon’s top Sunni cleric, Sheikh Abul-Latif Daryan, repeated his call Saturday for forming a new government of “national salvation” that would work to enact reforms.

Lebanon’s president meets bankers amid liquidity crisis
The Associated Press/Saturday, 9 November 2019
Lebanon’s president is meeting with several Cabinet ministers and top banking officials in search for solutions for the deepening financial and economic crisis. The country’s financial troubles have worsened since nationwide protests – initially against new taxes – snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to step down. Banks reopened November 1 after a two-week closure amid the protests. But depositors have rushed to withdraw their money in recent days, while lenders imposed irregular capital controls. President Michel Aoun’s office says the meeting was attended by the ministers of economy and finance, as well as the central bank governor and the head of the banks’ association. Banks in Lebanon were closed Saturday for an extra day amid deepening turmoil and public anxiety over liquidity.

Aoun during the Baabda Meeting: For adopting necessary measures to meet citizens’ needs
NNA/Sat 09 Nov 2019
During the financial and economic meeting held this afternoon at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, chaired by President Michel Aoun, the President called for taking all the necessary measures to cater to the needs of citizens. Aoun began the meeting by stressing the importance of addressing the current financial and banking situation, and to keep citizens well-informed of all developments to prevent the spread of rumors and false news targeting the banking sector in particular, and monetary stability in general. In this context, a series of measures were adopted during the meeting to address the financial and monetary conditions in the country, with special focus on pursuing the ongoing coordination between the Central Bank and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, in order to maintain stability and to enable banks to meet the needs of their customers, especially small depositors. Additionally, conferees highlighted the need to ensure the sustainability of the productive sectors as well. It was also emphasized that depositors’ money was well-kept, and that the recent events have no connection to the issue of solvency; therefore, there is no need for panic. The financial meeting was attended by Caretaker Ministers of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, and Economy and Trade Mansour Btaish, alongside Caretaker State Minister for Presidency Affairs Salim Jreissati, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, and the President and members of the Lebanese Banks Association. The Presidency Director-General Antoine Choucair, and Presidential Advisor Mireille Aoun Hashem were also present during the meeting. At the end of the meeting, Banks Association President Salim Sfeir read out the meeting’s statement, outlining the essential points tackled.

Union of Bank Employees Syndicates: Extraordinary meeting upcoming Monday to discuss infringements against staff in many banks’ branches

NNA/Sat 09 Nov 2019
– In an issued statement Saturday by the Secretariat of the Union of Bank Employees Syndicates in Lebanon, it called for an extraordinary meeting by the Union’s executive board on Monday to “deliberate over the subject of infringements on bank employees.” In this framework, Union President George Antoine Hajj urged all members to attend the meeting, saying that “what happened at the end of last week in many banks branches, such as encroachment on colleagues with insults and physical assault in some cases, requires a decision by the Union Council in order to maintain the safety of bank employees.” The Union Secretariat indicated that a statement will be issued at the end of the meeting on Monday to be circulated via the media, adding that the Banks Association President will also be informed of the Union Council’s decision. It is to note that a statement was issued by the Syndicate of Bank Employees in the North, calling on Union President Hajj to “adopt a decision of complete and open closure in the banking sector.”

Report: Consumer Prices Up 8% amid Protests
Naharnet/November 09/2019
The Director of the Consumer Protection at the Ministry of Economy, Tarek Younes said that according to patrols conducted by inspectors from the ministry, the prices of basket of consumer goods and services rose by 6 and 8 percent, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat reported on Saturday.
Moreover, Nabil Fahd, head of the supermarket owners’ association, told the daily “the rise in prices of some consumer goods is linked to several issues that preceded the dollar crisis.”He said the “cost of interest on businesses has increased from 7.5 to 12 percent, and fees on credit card payments, which ranged from 0.85 to 1.25 rose to 2 percent, and then a 3 percent increase in tariffs on materials.”Another increase he said affected “imports of consumer goods, and the customs duty ranging between 10 and 20 percent on some other imported materials such as (Cornflakes).” Adding to the above, the shortage in dollar contributed to the rise in prices of some commodities, “but some commodities maintained the same price,” he said. On Wednesday, the World Bank urged protest-hit Lebanon to form a new government quickly, warning that an economic downturn would deepen poverty and worsen unemployment. Since October 17, an unprecedented protest movement has targeted a political class deemed incompetent and corrupt. Demonstrations have continued despite the government’s resignation last week. Without quick steps to address the crisis, about half of Lebanon’s population could fall into poverty and unemployment could “rise sharply”, the lender said in a statement. Even before protests erupted last month, growth in Lebanon had stalled following repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the war in Syria. Public debt stood at more than $86 billion, or higher than 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product, according to the finance ministry. Petrol stations owners said they would meet Thursday over persistent difficulties in paying for hydrocarbon imports due to dollar shortages.

Fuel Shortage, Price Hikes Squeeze Protest-Hit Lebanon
Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
A rationing of dollars by banks in protest-hit Lebanon sparked growing alarm on Saturday as some petrol pumps ran dry and grocery stores introduced fresh price hikes. For two decades, the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the greenback and both currencies used interchangeably in daily life.
But banks have gradually been reducing access to dollars since the end of the summer, following fears of a shortage in central bank reserves. Access was limited further this week after banks reopened for the first time since an unprecedented popular uprising hit the country on October 17.
On Saturday, several petrol stations stopped services as reserves ran out because of a shortage of dollars needed to pay for imports, a syndicate head said. “The petrol stations that opened today are the ones that still have reserves. They will close down as soon as supply runs out,” said Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners. He said if officials do not facilitate access to dollars by Tuesday, “we will be forced to stop imports and close down all petrol stations.” His warning came a day after hospitals threatened to stop receiving patients because of a lack of dollars to pay for medical imports. Current medical stocks in the country “will not last more than a month”, hospital syndicate head Suleiman Haroun said.
Price hikes
Lebanon has seen an unprecedented popular uprising against everything from power cuts and poor social security to state corruption. The government yielded to popular pressure and stepped down last month, with the World Bank urging the quick formation of a new cabinet to prevent the economy from further deteriorating. But the country seemed to plunge deeper into economic crisis after banks reopened this week and further limited dollar supply. They halted all ATM withdrawals in dollars, introduced an additional charge on dollar withdrawals made at banks, and severely restricted conversions from Lebanese pounds. This has forced many people to resort to the black market where they are charged higher exchange rates, in what amounts to the de-facto devaluation of the local currency. The official exchange rate has remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, but the rate in the parallel market has surpassed 1,800. According to Zouhair Berro, the head of the Lebanese Consumers Association, the dollar shortage is leading to price hikes, especially for meat, vegetables and dairy.He said that suppliers are demanding payment in dollars. Economist Naseeb Gharbeel said that banks are being put “under pressure” due to a large demand for dollars from Lebanese inside the country and abroad.
‘Guarantee a future’
President Michel Aoun met central bank governor Riad Salameh and representatives from the Lebanese Association of Banks on Saturday to discuss the situation, according to the state-run National News Agency. The meeting came as hundreds took part in student-led demonstrations across the country to pressure the government into meeting their demands. The rallies have gained new momentum after pupils and university students boycotted lessons in recent days to spearhead the street movement. “We want to guarantee a future for ourselves,” said Mohammad, an 18-year-old high-school student.
“I shouldn’t be forced to leave the country after I graduate to find a job,” he said from a protest square in central Beirut. “The current political class is not capable of providing this.”Even before protests erupted last month, growth in Lebanon had stalled following repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the war in Syria. Public debt stood at more than $86 billion, over 150 percent of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry. Moody’s ratings agency this week downgraded Lebanon’s sovereign debt, saying the anti-government protests had hit investor confidence and threatened economic stability. The World Bank had forecast a contraction of 0.2 percent before the turmoil, but has said that it now expects Lebanon’s recession “to be even more significant”. Without quick steps to address the crisis, about half of Lebanon’s population could fall into poverty and unemployment could “rise sharply”, the lender said.

Lebanese banks face threats, Hariri said to want neutral government
Reuters, Beirut/Saturday, 9 November 2019
Lebanese bank staff are facing abuse from customers angered by restrictions on access to their cash, the employees’ union said on Friday, reflecting intensifying pressures in an economy gripped by its deepest crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. With Lebanon paralyzed by political and economic turmoil, its politicians have yet to make progress towards agreeing a new government to replace one that was toppled by an unprecedented wave of protests against the sectarian ruling elite. Saad al-Hariri, who quit as prime minister last week, is determined the next government should be devoid of political parties because such a cabinet will not be able to secure Western assistance, a source familiar with his view said. He is still seeking to convince the powerful, Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement of the need for such a technocratic government, the source said. Hariri’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Leading Christian politician Samir Geagea warned of great unrest if supplies of basic goods run short and said Lebanon’s financial situation was “very, very delicate”. One of the world’s most heavily indebted states, Lebanon was already in deep economic trouble before protests erupted on Oct. 17, ignited by a government plan to tax WhatsApp calls. Taking aim at rampant state corruption, the nationwide protests have targeted the entire elite. Since reopening a week ago, banks have been seeking to stave off capital flight by blocking most transfers abroad and imposing curbs on hard-currency withdrawals, though the central bank has announced no formal capital controls. The banks’ moves have led to threats against their staff. “Clients with guns have entered banks and security guards have been afraid to speak to them as when people are in a state like this you don’t know how people will act,” said George al Hajj, president of the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees.
Bank staff are considering going on strike, he said. “Clients are becoming very aggressive; the situation is very critical and our colleagues cannot continue under the current circumstances,” added Hajj, whose union has around 11,000 members, just under half of the total banking staff. A senior banker expressed concern that potential industrial action by staff could force the closure of banks from Tuesday onward. Banks will be closed on Saturday and Monday for a public holiday. A big part of Lebanon’s economic crisis stems from a slowdown of capital inflows which has led to a scarcity of US dollars and spawned a black market where the Lebanese pound has weakened below its official pegged rate. A dollar was costing 1,800 pounds or more on Friday compared to 1,740 on Thursday, two market sources said. The pegged rate is 1,507.5 pounds.
“On another planet”
Some banks have lowered the cap on maximum withdrawals from dollar accounts this week, according to customers and bank employees. At least one bank cut credit card limits from $10,000 to $1,000 this week, customers said. “Anything that touches the liquidity of the bank is being restricted,” said another banker. One bank told a customer that a weekly withdrawal cap of $2,500 had been slashed to $1,500. Friday also saw the longest queues yet at ATMs, the senior banker said, as customers prepared for the two-day closure. In central Beirut, several people tried and failed to withdraw dollars from an ATM belonging to one of the banks that is still dispensing dollars from its cash machines. “It’s frustrating as I need money to keep me going for the weekend,” said one customer, a 25-year-old marketing professional. Another customer was able to withdraw cash in Lebanese pounds from the same ATM.
Hariri, who resigned on October 29, has been holding closed-door meetings with other politicians. “Hariri has made up his mind. He does not want a government with any politicians because this government cannot secure support from the West,” the source familiar with his view said.
Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party, said the only way out of the crisis was the formation of a competent government independent of political parties. “Every hour we hear of a crisis at the gates, whether it’s (supply of) petrol, flour, or medicine,” Geagea said in a telephone interview. “Everything is collapsing and the officials are on another planet, taking their time.”

Report: Hizbullah, Speaker ‘Fail’ to Persuade Adamant Hariri
Naharnet/November 09/2019
The formation of a new government reportedly hinges on caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri who “refuses” to head another cabinet, amid failed Hizbullah, Speaker’s attempts to convince him otherwise, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. The daily said that Speaker Nabih Berri has dispatched Minister Ali Hassan Khalil a “number of times to persuade Hariri, emphasizing the need that he shoulder responsibility.”It also said that Hizbullah has failed to dissuade Hariri from his decision. According to information, the recent meeting between Hariri and Hizbullah’s political aide, Hajj Hussein Khalil, was “frank and friendly.” Hariri allegedly made no mention that he rejects Hizbullah’s participation in an upcoming government. Moreover, Khalil reportedly passed Hizbullah’s position that Hariri should be a key partner in solving the current government crisis, and that he should shoulder responsibility … “we are with you,” he reportedly told the caretaker Premier. But Hariri maintains an “unwavering” position, said the daily, which Hussein allegedly said “we don’t consider (the rejection) that a final answer, let us leave it to the ongoing contacts.” Hariri tendered his government’s resignation on October 29 in response to pressure from the street. The cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity but efforts to form a new line-up seem to be stalling, with each faction in the outgoing coalition seeking to salvage some influence. Hariri met President Michel Aoun on Thursday and said that consultations were ongoing with all political players but gave no details.

Students in Tyre Join Pupils Demos for First Time
Naharnet/November 09/2019
Hundreds of students in the southern city of Tyre joined for the first time on Saturday the masses of fellow students in different parts of Lebanon boosting the country’s anti-government protest movement. Tyre students chanted “revolution, revolution,” expressing anger of an increasing rate in “unemployment,” and demanding “new curricula and social rights.”Since Wednesday, university and high school students across the country have massively deserted their classrooms to join nationwide streets protests. Earlier in October, pro-AMAL gunmen suppressed by force the protesters chanting slogans opposed to AMAL Movement leader and Speaker Nabih Berri. Armed clashes were reported as videos of the clashes went viral on social media. Thousands of high school students across Lebanon skipped classes Saturday for a fourth day in a row to carry on the flame of the country’s anti-graft movement. Lebanon has since October 17 been gripped by massive cross-sectarian protests demanding a complete revamping of a political system they say is corrupt and inept. With youth unemployment running at over 30 percent, school students have joined en masse since Wednesday demanding a better country so they don’t have to emigrate.

Lebanon’s grand mufti calls for protesters’ demands to be met
Reuters, Beirut/Saturday, 9 November 2019
Lebanon’s grand mufti, the top cleric for Sunni Muslims, called on Saturday for those in power to meet protesters’ demands of ending corruption and sectarianism. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian also said the time had come for the prompt formation of a national emergency government of experts, in a televised address on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The country is in political turmoil after a wave of protests that prompted the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister last week.

World Bank Regional Chief Urges Lebanon to Form Govt. ‘within a Week’

Associated Press/Naharnet/November 09/2019
The World Bank’s regional director on Friday urged Lebanon to form a new Cabinet “within a week” to prevent further degradation and loss of confidence in its economy. Saroj Kumar Jha told The Associated Press that the World Bank observed in recent weeks increasing risks to Lebanon’s economic and financial stability. “We are very concerned that this will impact the Lebanese poor people, middle class” and businesses, he said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29 in response to the unprecedented protests which have swept Lebanon starting in the middle of last month. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes and have snowballed into calls for the entire political elite that has ruled Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside. More than a week after Hariri resigned, President Michel Aoun has not yet set a date for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs who would name a new premier. There appears to be sharp divisions over whether the new Cabinet should be made up of experts only or include politicians. “It is extremely important that there is a political solution to the ongoing crisis and (that) we have a credible government in the office, which can launch ambitious bold reforms for economic stability, for more growth in the economy, for more jobs to be created and to restore confidence,” Jha added. Jha said the losses “are enormous” and some of them can be measured but there are many that cannot. He said the World Bank estimates that before the protests started on Oct. 17, Lebanese was already in recession and “we were projecting 0.2% negative growth in the Lebanese economy. More recent “estimates suggest that the contraction in the country’s economy could be about 1% of the GDP, which is quiet substantial.”He added this would almost mean 600 to 700 million dollars of economic losses every day. Lebanon, which suffers from widespread corruption, has one of the highest debts in the world, standing at $86 billion or 150 of the GDP.
Jha said the new government should work on restoring confidence in the Lebanese economy, creating business opportunities for all Lebanese, improving the job market and launching a comprehensive program for the state-owned electricity company, which is draining state coffers.
“We need a government immediately. A government which is credible, meets the expectations of the Lebanese people, can work with all (sides) in the country and international community” to take these reforms forward, he said. “Given the scale of social and economic impact in terms of economic losses, increasing poverty, increasing unemployment, I think it is extremely important that we have a government within a week to prevent further degradation of the Lebanese economy and the confidence in the Lebanese economy,” he said, speaking to The AP at his office in central Beirut.
“If there is a government within a week, first of all it will send a very positive signal to everyone. To the markets, investors, to the international community,” Jha said. Since banks in Lebanon opened again last Friday for the first time in two weeks, people have been rushing to banking institutions to withdraw money fearing that the country’s crisis would further deepen amid shortage in liquidity. The banks subsequently have been imposing irregular capital controls to protect deposits and prevent a run on the banks. The banking sector — a backbone of the economy — suffered a blow on Thursday when Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the country’s three largest banks into junk territory. The international agency downgraded to Caa2 from Caa1, the local-currency deposit ratings respectively of Bank Audi, BLOM Bank and Byblos Bank.
Two days earlier Moody’s said it lowered Lebanon’s issuer rating to caa2 citing the possibility of rescheduling the country’s massive debt. Jha said the “downgrading of several Lebanese banks … shows that the confidence in the Lebanese economy is very sharply declining.””It presents itself as a challenge to the Lebanese political leaders to really form the government as soon as possible,” he also said. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported Friday that the country’s banks will be closed for two extra days over the weekend amid deepening turmoil and public anxiety over liquidity and sustained anti-government protests. It said the banks will be closed both on Saturday and Monday, along with the regular Sunday closure for the weekend. The report says this will allow for the observation of the holiday celebrating Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, which is set for Monday in Lebanon.
Lebanon is one of the world’s most heavily indebted countries.

Lebanon Protests a Boon for Street Vendors
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/2019
The smells of grilled cheese and cooked corn waft over the protesters in the Lebanese capital — with daily crowds filling the the capital’s main squares, the movement has been a boon for street vendors.Ibrahim is a plasterer by trade, but when he saw crowds flocking by the tens of thousands to Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to protest against government corruption and incompetence, he knew it was not an opportunity to be missed. One day, he’s selling “kaak”, a round, savoury Lebanese bread covered in sesame seeds. The next, it’s corn on the cob or small trays of lupin beans dressed with cumin and lemon juice.
“It’s better than being out of work,” the stocky 27-year-old said. Times have been tough for many months, he said, with the country hit by an economic crisis that has not spared the construction sector.
– ‘New livelihood’ –
“For us, the revolution represents a new livelihood, and at the same time we are protesting with the people,” Ibrahim said. On good days, he earns between $35 and $40 with his food cart. Forced to abandon his education before age 18, he has been taking care of his sick mother since his father passed away.
“She has no social security or pension, I spend my life paying for doctors and medicines,” he said. A short distance away, the square resounds to the rallying cries of the protest movement which has rocked Lebanon since October 17: “Revolution! Revolution!” and “the people want the fall of the regime”.
A new group of protesters march past and Ibrahim quickly gets back to business, grabbing his cart from the car park where he had hidden it. When the demonstrations swell, police do not bother with street vendors, Ibrahim said.
But when rallying points empty out, security forces confiscate vendors’ goods and remind them that their activities are illegal. A little further on, several protesters have gathered around a cart serving punnets of corn and beans that its owner has dubbed the “revolution wagon”. Normally, Emad Hassan Saad plies his business on the corniche, Beirut’s seaside promenade. “We sell more here because there are more people,” the 29-year-old said. He has brought on three friends to help him out. The first peels lemons, the second chops them and the third pulls ears of corn from a pot of boiling water. “The rallies are a job opportunity for these young people, even if it’s only temporary,” Dana Zayyat, 21, said, munching on lupin beans. Her friend Jana Kharzal agrees. “This revolution has allowed young people who are poor to work, those who don’t have the chance to study or to rent a shop.” Youth unemployment is chronic in Lebanon, with more than 30 percent out of work, while almost a third of of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty.
– Fines –
Some vendors complain of the treatment they receive at the hands of security forces, even at their usual selling spots like the corniche, popular with Sunday strollers. One of their number, who did not want to give his name, said he had had to pay dozens of fines the equivalent of $300, or 20 day’s take.
Despite the risks, the manager of a hookah rental service took his chances and set up shop among the protesters. He gets to work in the evenings, when the demonstrations swell and police attention is elsewhere. Fifteen or so of his water pipes are lined up near a concrete wall in a car park in Martyrs’ Square, where his employees are busy serving customers.  He’ll leave “when the political class leaves”, he says between draws on a hookah. Not far away, a frail elderly woman offers red roses for sale to passers-by from where she is seated on the ground, despite the late hour.
A brown scarf encircles her weathered face and when protesters ask why she is out so late, she answers that she has no choice. “This country pushes the poor into the grave,” she says in a weak voice.

Geagea confers with Kubic over latest local developments
NNA/November 09/2019
Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, met this afternoon with UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Jan Kubis, in the presence of his foreign relations advisor Elie Khoury and the Party’s external relations department head, Elie Hindi. According to Geagea’s Press Office, discussions during the meeting focused on “the latest local developments in terms of the prevailing economic situation and the issue of forming the new government.”

Geagea Replies to Pompeo Remarks on Lebanon
Naharnet/November 09/2019
Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea on Saturday replied to statements made by US US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Lebanon. “With great thanks Mr. Pompeo, the Lebanese people need no help to come out of their living, social and economic crisis,” Geagea said in a tweet.
Popmeo had earlier said: “The Iraqi and Lebanese people want their countries back. They are discovering that the Iranian regime’s top export is corruption, badly disguised as revolution. Iraq and Lebanon deserve to set their own courses free from Khamenei’s meddling.”

Geagea Says Officials Seem to be Living ‘on Another Planet’

Naharnet/November 09/2019
Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea on Friday said that the country’s political leaders seem to be living “on another planet,” lamenting that there are no indications that the new government will be formed anytime soon. Geagea also accused Hizbullah of seeking a government similar to the resigned one by insisting on having its ally Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil in it. The World Bank’s regional director on Friday urged Lebanon to form a new Cabinet “within a week” to prevent further degradation and loss of confidence in its economy. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29 in response to the unprecedented protests which have swept Lebanon starting in the middle of last month. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes and have snowballed into calls for the entire political elite that has ruled Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside. More than a week after Hariri resigned, President Michel Aoun has not yet set a date for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs who would name a new premier. There appears to be sharp divisions over whether the new Cabinet should be made up of experts only or include politicians.
Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 09-10/2019
Hopes of Young Lebanese to Escape Sectarianism Put to Test/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/2019
Lebanon: Political Disputes Among Aoun’s Three Daughters/Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
From Iraq to Lebanon & Syria…the Threat is One and the Same/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
Lebanese fear economic chaos/Najla Houssari/Arab News/November 10/2019
Lebanon’s uprising: the era of impunity and blind obedience is over/Raghida Dergham/The National/November 09/2019
A New Arab Spring Is Unfolding in Iraq and Lebanon. But Things Could Get Bloody If Iran Gets Its Way/Bessma Momani/Time/November 09/2019

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 09-10/2019
Hopes of Young Lebanese to Escape Sectarianism Put to Test
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 09/2019
Lebanon’s protests are bringing out people from across the country’s spectrum of faiths and communities trying to throw out the entire ruling elite. They give a glimpse into a Lebanon transcending longtime divisions among sects. But the young protesters face an entrenched political leadership that depends on sectarianism and an older generation that fears disrupting it could bring back civil war. That threat resonates less with a generation that has little or no memory of a war that ended in 1990. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes but snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to go. For them, sectarian power-sharing is bound together with corruption and mismanagement that has impoverished them and left infrastructure so decrepit that power outages hit every day. Singer Tania Saleh grew up amid a civil war that robbed her of her childhood, of her friends and neighbors and of the Lebanon she so loved. For years, she has sung the pains of sectarian schisms. “You Lebanese have created 10 or 12 gods … You divided me. You aggravated me. You parceled me out and you became divided,” one of her songs says, imagining a conversation with God. “He who wants to pray … must understand that God, the creator, has not made one sect better than the other.”
Based on a poem written in 1975, the year the war broke out, the lyrics still felt searing and relevant enough for Saleh to add to an album in 2017. Now, the 50-year-old hopes younger Lebanese can make her country dance to a different tune, one that transcends sectarian divisions. She is inspired by the mosaic of protesters who have come together in the past weeks from across the religious, political and geographic spectrum, united in disdain for a political class they say has cheated them of a decent future. “The new generation is not like us,” she said. “We have seen too many tragedies and so we are scared.”
The demonstrators have provided those eager to see the country move past its sectarian legacy with a glimpse of what can be. But Saleh says she has no illusions about how long that path will be. Those aspirations are increasingly being put to the test by a system that delicately balances among 18 officially recognized sectarian groups. The system is locked into the country’s politics. The posts of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker are given to the biggest communities — Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim and Shiite Muslim. Most political parties are explicitly based on sect, and politicians pass out patronage and jobs to their communities.
It is also engrained in society, where many fear domination by other sects and one sect’s gain can be seen as another’s loss. Looming over everything is the fear new violence might erupt if anyone wrecks the balance. That threat resonates less with a generation that has little or no memory of a war that ended in 1990. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes but snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to go. For them, sectarian power-sharing is bound together with corruption and mismanagement that has impoverished them and left infrastructure so decrepit that power outages hit every day.
Hiba Farhat, a 31-year-old Shiite protester, said politicians pit sects against each other so “people would say, ‘Ok, I accept corruption and I accept this leader; I just need him to protect me from the other sect.'”Slogans like “the era of sects has ended” and “a revolution against fear” are scrawled in graffiti and proclaimed on banners. At a recent protest, demonstrators poured into Beirut squares in response to calls to keep unified. Wearing a flowing black robe and a light-colored scarf framing her face, 25-year-old Huda Wissam smiled and swayed to the tunes of national songs as others rhythmically stomped their feet. With her was her 15-year-old brother and 20-year-old sister. “I am veiled and when I see a Christian smiling at me, I get reassured that we have shed off sectarianism,” said Wissam, a Sunni Muslim. “The challenge is for us all to remain together, Christian, Muslim, Shiite or Sunni … then we will succeed.”Her father, she said, wanted her to stay out of protests, warning, “This will lead to a civil war.”
“He doesn’t want his children to become victims for something that won’t happen. He has given up, but we won’t,” she said. “I don’t want to wait until I am my parents’ age and then there would be nothing I can do.”On a recent night, a small group of protesters sat on a sidewalk by the bell tower of a church in the northern Beirut suburb of Jal el-Deeb and took stock of how far they have come. “The grudges that they have planted in us, our generation has put an end to them. I no longer feel sectarianism. Lebanon comes first,” Charbel Elie, 32, told the group. He wanted to know what the protesters had gained.
“Today, we don’t ask what sect you belong to and what area you’re from,” and fear of criticizing leaders has been broken, replied Nayla Geagea, an activist and lawyer. She walked them through constitutional steps to forming a new government.
A 75-year-old man in the circle spoke up to say he had no questions but wanted to apologize to the younger generation for the country they were inheriting.
“We will fix it, uncle,” someone yelled.
But protesters have had to keep sectarianism from fragmenting their own ranks. Geagea pointed out that when the prime minister stepped down — one of the demands of protesters — some made it look like the demonstrators were targeting his Sunni community. “We have to defeat this rhetoric,” she said. Amid grumbling over roadblocks and fears of economic collapse, men shouting Shiite religious slogans and chants in support of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confronted protesters in one instance. Some Shiites who initially joined demonstrations have stayed away after Nasrallah — even as he expressed sympathy for protesters’ demands — accused foreign powers of exploiting them to undermine Hezbollah and warned against dragging the country into civil war. Tensions between opposing Christian factions have also run high. Some supporters of President Michel Aoun accuse rivals from the rightwing Lebanese Forces movement of seeking to topple him. The two sides fought each other brutally in the final years of the civil war. Aoun backers held a demonstration to support him and the president has called for unity. “The sectarian system will not get toppled through protests,” said one of them, 27-year-old Elias Khoury. “It will get toppled when the hearts, not the laws, change.”
The two are tangled together — a social mentality clinging to sect and a political class whose power depends on sectarianism.
“When you ask for the dismantling of the political sectarian system … you’re basically asking the current political elite to commit group suicide. They’re not going to do that,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. The young “want basic, fundamental rights and for them they really have nothing to lose,” she said. “They recognize that this system hasn’t worked for their parents; it is not working for them.”Saleh, the singer, said she takes hope from a generation she feels is not as sectarian. Her son, she said, doesn’t care to know the faith of his schoolmates.
Just like her art, her life has been colored by Lebanon’s intricacies. Her world changed at only six. The civil war broke out and school friends and neighbors started disappearing. The Christians fled to other areas. Born to a Sunni father and a Shiite mother, Saleh would go out sometimes with a cross dangling around her neck, a statement of defiance to the fighters who stole the normalcy of her life.
The war pitted Palestinians against Lebanese, Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians and every other combination possible.
As battles raged, Saleh and her family left too, again and again and again. They bounced from home to home, escaped briefly to Kuwait. These memories are seared in her mind. Her mother begging armed men to let them drive through. Listening every day in Kuwait to iconic Lebanese singer Fairouz belt out “I love you, oh Lebanon.””There is no hope for me to enjoy a proper country,” Saleh said. “But the hope is for our kids and grandkids. Let them start now better than waiting for when it’s too late.”

Lebanon: Political Disputes Among Aoun’s Three Daughters
Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
With the beginning of popular protests on October 17, the family of President Michel Aoun was shaken with political disagreements, specifically between his three daughters, over the policies of Aoun’s son-in-law, the head of the FPM and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Indications of a dispute emerged few months ago, when MP Shamel Roukoz, the president’s son-in-law, announced his withdrawal from the FPM’s Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc. However, recent reports noted that Aoun’s daughter and advisor, Mireille (the wife of Roy Hashem, OTV channel’s director-general) has left the presidential palace due to a clash with Bassil, to later return to Baabda to assume her role but with restricted authorities. On Thursday, the Kataeb Party website quoted sources close to Mireille as saying that Aoun has asked her to no longer deal with politics, and to leave such affairs to Bassil.
In a television interview, Claudine, the wife of MP Shamel Roukoz, acknowledged the emergence of a new opposition within the FPM.
“There are different approaches within the same house, and in the end, the people voted and gave their confidence to the deputies. There is a great responsibility to be assumed today,” she said.Political disputes seem to threaten the personal relations between the sisters. Sources close to the FPM noted that the “lines of communication are almost cut between Chantal (Bassil’s wife) on one hand, and her sisters, Claudine and Mireille, on the other, especially following Bassil’s speech last Sunday from Baabda, in which he accused “relatives and strangers” of betrayal.
Naim Aoun – Aoun’s nephew – did not conceal the presence of disputes within the FPM. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that the consequences of these rifts would be more obvious following the formation of the new government. Despite his deep disagreement with the current FPM leaders, Naim tried to minimize the disputes between the three daughters. “There are no problems among the sisters at the family or personal level, but the political difference between them is clear,” he said. Both Mireille and Claudine did not attend the FPM demonstration held last Sunday in front of the Baabda Palace. In a television interview, Claudine lashed out at Bassil without naming him, and commented on popular demands on Bassil to stay away from the government, saying: “As the president’s daughter, I am ready to sit at home if it is in the country’s interest, because a total collapse would not exempt any party, but will affect all sides.”

From Iraq to Lebanon & Syria…the Threat is One and the Same
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/November 09/2019
As US President Donald Trump congratulates himself on the ‘achievement’ of withdrawing from Syria, with the exception of the oil producing area, Western capitals seem to be in a hurry to calm the situation in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Everybody wants to facilitate forming new governments and contain tension; while no one seems to care about anything other than replacing one government with another, regardless of what the region is going through. Yet, since the outbreak of the current Lebanese uprising against the ruling elite and corruption three weeks ago, which led to the resignation of Saad Hariri’s cabinet, the Secretary General of Hezbollah made three appearances in which he resorted to ‘advice’, directives, accusations and threats.
Iraq is also going through a similar popular uprising calling for the resignation of the government and parliament. This uprising is sweeping the Shiite areas of central and southern Iraq, and has witnessed tearing down pictures of Iran’s Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards Al-Quds Brigade commander General Qasim Soleimani. Incidentally, Soleimani had left Lebanon, a few days before, to Iraq, where he has been busy planning the containment and crushing of both uprisings.
In both cases, fingers have been pointing to the Iranian leadership, which is obvious; since it would be absurd to separate the terrible living conditions in countries like Iraq and Lebanon, from their virtual occupation and rule by Iranian-controlled militias. In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s occupation has been the direct cause of the country’s brain drain, lack of investment, concealment of widespread corruption, and destruction of its services sector. Likewise, in Iraq, the de facto occupation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and its constituent militias have been sucking dry the oil-rich country’s great wealth, including causing the closure of no less than 52,000 factories as Iran imposes its stranglehold on the Iraqi economy.
Two valuable contributions to the subject were recently published in the US, covering Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The first, was an article by Samir Sumaidaie, a former Iraqi Interior Minister and former Ambassador to the UN and Washington, published by ‘The Atlantic Council’; and the second, was a report on ‘The Growing Threat to the Druze’ published by ‘The Middle East Institute’ with collaboration of ETANA-Syria.
Sumaidaie wrote: “In Washington, some believe that despite the protests in Iraq that began in early October and continue apace, the current Iraqi government should be supported and given help as it responds to the just demands of the protesters. The reasons given range from: “What is the alternative? The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” to “This is the constitutionally elected government, and challenging it risks chaos.”
“That analysis,” he added “might be convenient, but it is wrong. It does not take into account what has led to this explosion of public anger.
The May 2018 elections were all but boycotted by the electorate. The turnout was claimed to be around 44 percent, but many believe it was much lower. That contrasts with the 60 percent turnout in recent previous elections even without all provinces fully participating. Then, in June 2018, a suspicious fire destroyed half of the ballots from the 2018 election, and the results were “adjusted” by an Electoral Commission (EC), which should have been independent but was not.”
He then pointed out to the fact that “the constitutionality of the current political system is open to challenge in other important respects”, including:
1- “The constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and sect, but the current political order is predicated on the Prime Minister being Shiite, the President Kurdish, and the Speaker of Parliament Sunni…
2- The constitution explicitly bans militias. But there exist in Iraq heavily armed militias (and not just the Popular Mobilization Forces, also known as the PMF) with declared allegiance to Iran…
3- Most importantly, the ruling clique has diverted the country’s revenue from oil—the country’s primary source of income—into the pockets of the elite through an elaborate patronage scheme and corruption (….) Young people would not go into the streets unarmed and aware that they face live bullets from the militias if they were not desperate.”
In conclusion, he wrote that “the Iraqi government, as it is constituted now and despite all past and present promises and claims to the contrary, does not have the political will or the capacity to deliver good governance.”
As for ‘The Middle East Institute’s report, under the title ‘Divide and Conquer: The Growing Threat to the Druze’, it maintained that “Deep political, familial, and religious ties have allowed Druze communities across the Levant to remain largely unified against external threats, but eight years of violence in Syria and a coordinated campaign by the regime and its allies now threaten to destabilize regional Druze politics and erode the sect’s political and military power. An Iranian-backed campaign by Hezbollah to incite inter-Druze violence in Lebanon has curtailed this unity, laying the groundwork for Hezbollah to expand into Syria’s Suweida province with impunity.”
The report added that “Hezbollah’s push to create inter-sect strife has extended from Beirut to the occupied Golan Heights to Suweida”, and went on explaining that:
1- Approximately 60% of all armed groups in the Suweida province are affiliated with Hezbollah, and it continues to work to recruit or co-opt partners there.”
2- Within Iran’s strategy, Hezbollah is launching a two-pronged attack on the Druze: One inside Lebanon, where it is working to divide the community and weaken its biggest political bloc headed by Walid Jumblatt through supporting and encouraging aspiring rivals; and inciting inter-Druze confrontation and violence in their Mount Lebanon stronghold. The other in Syria, where Hezbollah and the Iranian militias blackmail the Druze of Suweida (southern Syria) through organized crime, like kidnappings, assassinations, smuggling. Also in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, tensions and divisions are being fomented between the area’s Druze and Jumblatt.
3- As for Israel, “Hezbollah and the regime have clashed with Israeli forces at the Lebanese-Israeli border in recent weeks, and the controversial passage of a Jewish nationality law in Israel has seen relations between the Druze and Tel Aviv sour since the beginning of the year.” Exploiting the tension between the 1948 Palestinian (Israeli) – Druze and the Israeli right-wing government; more so after the ‘Jewish nationality law’ is hoped to neutralize the Druze there, and allow the pro-Iran militia to extend its influence to the eastern slopes of Mount Hermon adjacent to occupied Golan Heights.
The two aforementioned published works are extremely valuable to the understanding of the events in Iraq and Lebanon, as well as the strategic land ‘corridor’ Iran is creating between Tehran and Beirut through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
General Soleimani, who is virtually the ‘military governor’ of the three countries is going ahead with this project against the deafening silence – is it the collusion – of the International Community!
One sincerely hopes that the suffering stops and strong will of the Iraqis and the Lebanese proves strong enough to defeat this collusion.

Lebanese fear economic chaos
Najla Houssari/Arab News/November 10/2019
Banks witness pressure from depositors to withdraw funds for commercial purposes both in dollars or Lebanese pounds
BEIRUT: Lebanese worries rose on Saturday as economic chaos began to seep into the country’s life cycle. The dollar crisis is resurfacing. Lebanese banks closed on Saturday and will be closed next Monday for the Prophet’s birthday. Over the past two days, the banks witnessed pressure from depositors to withdraw funds for commercial purposes both in dollars or Lebanese pounds, but the banks were reluctant to pay them on the pretext of lack of liquidity. Social media reported many arguments between bank employees and customers. The financial situation was the focus of a meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Friday night. It was also the focus of a meeting between President Michel Aoun and Governor Salameh on Saturday, Chairman of the Association of Banks Salim Sfeir and members of the board of directors of the association.
According to information distributed after the Hariri-Salameh meeting, Governor Salameh refuted with figures and facts the temporary measures taken by the banks “to protect the depositors and their money and maintain the stability of the lira’s fixed exchange rate (1,507 against the dollar) with the support of the great potential possessed by the Banque du Liban.” He stressed the necessity of accelerating the formation of a government that “rebuilds confidence and contributes to the restoration of things to the right level to relieve monetary and banking pressures.” Salameh described what has been happening as “a state of confusion resulting from the loss of confidence and fears of the development of political matters to the extent of unrest.” Sfeir assured the Lebanese that “things are under control and there is no need for fear or concern for the citizens on their deposits and their money. Despite precautionary measures that protect their deposits and protect the Lebanese pound, banks continue to serve their clients.”
Fady Gemayel, president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, met with Governor Salameh and complained to him about “the suspension of facilities, stopping transfers and the scarcity in hard currency, which does not allow the provision of basic raw materials necessary for the industry.” After the meeting, Gemayel said: “This puts the industrialists on the brink of collapse for reasons unrelated to them, and this collapse will first affect the banks.”However, the reassurances did not alleviate the confusion and concern of the Lebanese. Protests were held in Tripoli in front of money exchange bureaus, which closed their doors. Money exchange bureaus in Lebanon are pricing the dollar differently from the official dollar pricing. The dollar reached 2,000 Lebanese pounds on the black market because of low volumes.
Many fuel stations in Beirut and the region were closed due to the lack of stock, while other stations rationed the distribution of fuel. Fadi Abu Shakra, the representative of the companies and distributors of fuel, said the reason for this was that “the owners of the stations are struggling to get the dollars to buy fuel and that the stations are currently closing one by one because of running out of stock.”
Things are under control and there is no need for fear or concern for the citizens on their deposits and their money.
Salim Sfeir, Chairman of the Association of Banks
Two laboratories that produce vaccines told hospitals on Saturday that any hospital that was late in paying the laboratories would not get vaccines until it paid in cash, Al Markazia news agency (CNA) said. The Order of Nurses in Lebanon warned that “some hospitals have begun procedures to affect the salaries of nurses, on the grounds that hospitals did not receive their dues from the state treasury and guarantors, and the Order will be forced to take ominous escalatory measures because the nursing sector can no longer tolerate more prejudice.”
The street protests remained unchanged on the 24th day of the civil movement. The protest groups targeted the Foreign Ministry because “the ministry is not a public facility to serve the minister and his group,” amid heavy security deployment.
The political discussions on the issue of scheduling binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister did not make any progress due to the preconditions for forming a government.
Asked whether the street protests are in a dilemma because economic concerns have overridden the anger of young protesters, Dr. Kholoud Kassem, a political sociologist, told Arab News: “We must not forget that what moved people on the street was the economic situation and people were not thinking about politics. People just want to live. The street uprising may have taken a second facet that is related to politics. But people are not taking into consideration the specificity of the Lebanese structure.”
Dr. Kassem added: “After this time, the revolution must monitor the daily reality and how it should move accordingly. What is happening now in the country puts the revolution in a dilemma if it is not directed by people who are known for their competence and lack of political affiliation. People need to be realistic. The structure in Lebanon that people want to change is not just ministers, deputies and presidents. It is a complex system in the Lebanese structure.” Dr. Qassem stressed that “the revolution has attained an achievement represented by monitoring and accountability. This was not available before, but there is an urgent need now for competent figures who follow this monitoring and follow-up what people have achieved.”

Lebanon’s uprising: the era of impunity and blind obedience is over
Raghida Dergham/The National/November 09/2019
The ruling class continue to bank on protesters running out of steam and returning to their previous modus operandi
Lebanon’s revolution shows no sign of abating but in the coming phase this will not matter, because the indifference of the ruling class and the coming economic collapse is leading to a dangerous new phase. The perseverance and multi-generational aspect of the Lebanese revolution have left the politicians in shock, after they assumed the protests were a fleeting emotional outburst that would inevitably fizzle out.
Despite their shock, they continue to bet on the uprising running out of steam, prompting protesters to go home, after which everything would return to normal – that is to say, corrupt politicians will return to their misdemeanours and their domination of the country’s resources and fate. However, the multi-generational revolution has created a new reality, despite the ruling class’s refusal to recognise it. The era of impunity and blind obedience is over. But the denial does not mean these men of power and sectarianism are not panicking. The coming social unrest will lead to mob hysteria against them and those close to them. If and when economic collapse happens, it will lead to shortages in fuel, food and other basic commodities in the next two months, precipitating a financial and social catastrophe. The young faces of the revolution must take all necessary measures to avoid descending into a mob mentality of wanton destruction.
The failure of the ruling class to understand the consequences of their deception, arrogance and greed, thinking that they can stall until the revolution has run its course, is dangerous and foolish, because it is not the youth who will tire first but the old men of the regime in Lebanon. President Michel Aoun’s delay in designating a prime minister to form a government to embark on serious, technocratic solutions to save Lebanon from total collapse could be a fateful gamble. Indeed, it could mean that he will be the person to blame if Lebanon descends into chaos.
Meanwhile, the Iranian leadership appears to be extremely panicked by the prospect of an internal eruption and an uprising against the regime, encouraged by the protests in Lebanon and Iraq. According to sources, Iran could be considering an escalation to divert attention away from what is happen domestically. Targeting tankers and other vital installations in the Gulf remains a possibility. In Lebanon, Iran is making frantic calculations, since Hezbollah is a precious card. The Iranians are keen to keep Lebanon under the yoke by ensuring Hezbollah dominates any government in Lebanon. Important decisions could be made in this regard, following a meeting of the Iranian leadership on Monday, decisions that could include extinguishing the Lebanese revolution at any cost.
It is not the youth who will tire first but the old men of the regime in Lebanon. Iran’s leadership has so far decided to treat the Lebanese uprising as something that targets corruption primarily rather than Hezbollah. This line of thinking is convenient for Tehran for now. But the question remains in the mind of Iran’s leaders: what kind of stability can be restored in Lebanon and where would that leave Hezbollah? Iran’s clear priority is that Hezbollah must step up its domination over Lebanon. The regime could resort to major escalation abroad to mask its failure, which has led to an economic crisis, isolation and sanctions. Leaders are currently in the process of ramping up Iran’s nuclear capabilities to provoke counter actions and rally nationalist support for their regime.
However, the sphere of influence that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boasts of commanding is no longer working. Iraq has entered a cycle of chaos which no political force, internal or external, can rein in. This cannot be reassuring for the IRGC, which once thought Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces were its trump card in Iraq. What we are witnessing is a major blow to Iran’s regional expansionist project. Its leadership is studying frantically what its options are in Iraq and Lebanon to safeguard the PMF and Hezbollah from the Iraqi and Lebanese uprisings.
Hezbollah will continue to feel reassured as long as protesters do not demand that it disarms and hands over weapons supplied by Iran. The group is betting on the fidelity of the president and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, and the alliance with their Free Patriotic Movement, to share power and control over Lebanon and its resources. So far, this alliance has resisted the formation of a technocratic government independent of political, ideological, partisan or sectarian dictats. It is still imagining the uprising will be quenched but this is delusional.
If Hezbollah comes to the conclusion that the revolution threatens its privileges, it has the arms to force a qualitative change in its trajectory and turn it from a protest movement into a civil war. For this reason, Hezbollah leads the camp rejecting the movement’s main demands.
If the decision to prevent the formation of such a government continues, Lebanon is on its way to the abyss. The protest movement must therefore hold onto the priority of installing a government of technocrats, then gradually demand other issues in parallel with efforts to prosecute the corrupt and restore looted public funds. Without a clean, independent government, no funds will come to Lebanon to rescue its economy from collapse. There would be no prospects either for new electoral laws or radical reforms.
What is coming will be very difficult. Hospital staff are already voicing alarm. The coming phase will chime with the pain of the people, who will no doubt blame the political class but could also blame demonstrators if they fail to develop achievable goals.
The time has come for international governments and institutions to pressure Lebanon’s leaders to stop stalling immediately, or they will be blamed for letting the country spiral into chaos.
The revolution, for its part, must be conscious of the necessity of preserving the state and its institutions. If the country descends into mass riots, the army has a responsibility to distinguish between civil rights activists and rioters. This is a dangerous and delicate phase but it will decide the fate of Lebanon.
https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/lebanon-s-uprising-the-era-of-impunity-and-blind-obedience-is-over-1.935340

A New Arab Spring Is Unfolding in Iraq and Lebanon. But Things Could Get Bloody If Iran Gets Its Way
Bessma Momani/Time/November 09/2019
Since October, protests in Iraq and Lebanon have re-energized the Middle East region as hundreds of thousands of young people descend onto public squares, repeating 2011 Arab Spring slogans that call for regime downfall. But while Iraq and Lebanon could offer great promise if protesters learn from past failures in the region, they could also prove to be bloodier if Iran gets its way.
What the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Says About the War That Killed Him
Middle East protests that have taken hold in the past decade have had their own unique characteristics, but similarities between Iraq and Lebanon are uncanny. Both are highly segmented societies that have undergone painful sectarian civil wars. Both have power-sharing constitutions or political pacts that attempt to keep the peace by dividing spoils of the state, government roles and administrative positions, and parliamentary seats along ethno-sectarian lines. But the more ominous similarity is the well-known interference of Iran into their domestic politics.
Iran’s financial, political and military support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah and for Iraq’s dominant political class in Baghdad from the Dawa party to the Hashd al-Shaabi militant group is clearly menacing. In the early days of Iraq’s protests in October, black clad snipers believed to be Iranian forces took to Baghdad rooftops to take pot shots at protesters using live ammunition; in Lebanon, unknown assailants believed to be with Hezbollah tore down protesters’ tent encampments and physically assaulted protesters in Beirut streets.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has already expressed his views on Lebanese and Iraqi protests, a reminder that Iran knows how to deploy armed forces to tamp down protests. The not-so-subtle warning was not just about how Iran cracked down on its own 2017-2018 protests against corruption and economic gloom— arresting almost 7,000 people and reacting to protests with force—but how Iran effectively propped up the Assad regime to annihilate protesters with brutal force.
Protesters have learned from previous Arab Spring masses to use their vast numbers to barricade themselves from security forces and not give up an inch of Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square. They use social media to garner global attention and keep the cameras rolling; and in the case of Iraqis, they find alternate means of getting their messages and videos out to the world when the government shuts down the Internet. Iraqi and Lebanese activists have used non-sectarian and nationalistic messages to counter the existing narratives of political incumbents. In Iraq, hashtags include ‘I want a nation’; in Lebanon ‘all of them, meaning all of them’. They have both held up posters that point to sectarianism as the source of ills in their countries. Increasingly they are also fighting against messaging from the Iranian government and its local media, which says protesters are paid tools of Western intelligence services.
In Lebanon and Iraq, protesters want an overhaul of the entire political structure that uses sectarianism as an excuse for ineptness, depends on cronyism that leads to systemic corruption, and encourages political in-fighting that leads to indecisive policies. Unlike previous Arab Spring movements, they are no longer satisfied with the mere removal of a prime minister here and a president there.
Both countries suffer from enormous dilapidation and underfunding of public infrastructure and services. Young protesters have no memory of foreign invasions and civil wars; they just want a functioning government to deliver consistent electricity, responsibly manage state budgets, and find ways to encourage job growth. Too many Iraqis complain that the security sector is one of the few places to find employment; young Lebanese feel that with 40% youth unemployment they have to leave the country with the vast majority of other Lebanese to find decent work.
Iraq sits on a healthy current account surplus, and earned $65 billion in oil export revenue in 2018 — yetits government cannot seem to provide clean drinking water to the oil-rich region of Basra. The Lebanese parliament had the audacity to ask for a 20 cent tax on citizens’ WhatsApp calls, while its Prime Minister had given $16 million to a South African supermodel for no clear reason.
Like previous Arab Spring protests, Iraqis and Lebanese see corruption as the cause of their countries’ ills. But they have an advantage that neither Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, or Syria had: they are imperfect and nascent democracies. Using the ballot box to usher in competent new leaders is a strategy and avenue for change that other Arab youth did not have.
This is also a challenge as the structure of the democratic process in both Lebanon and Iraq favors sectarian parties over brokerage ones. The incumbent political class will not want to dismantle the inefficient sectarian system that brought them to power. And will Iran crush the protesters before they have a chance to get their technocratic caretaker governments? For now, the at times festive and carnival nature of the Iraqi and Lebanese protests mask nervous fears on the streets that Iran would deploy its local militias to put an end to the protests. That would foreshadow an end to the demonstrations, much like previous Arab Spring protests.
*TIME Ideas hosts the world’s leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.
**Momani is Professor at the University of Waterloo, Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
https://time.com/5721115/lebanon-iraq-protests-iran/